The Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this week issued a press release headlined, "SEC Charges Italian Company and Dutch Subsidiary in Scheme Bribing Nigerian Officials With Carloads of Cash," that began, "The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Italian company ENI, S.p.A. and its former Dutch subsidiary Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V. with multiple violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in a bribery scheme that included deliveries of cash-filled briefcases and vehicles to Nigerian government officials to win construction contracts. Snamprogetti and ENI will jointly pay $125 million to settle the SEC's charges, and Snamprogetti will pay an additional $240 million penalty to settle separate criminal proceedings announced today by the U.S. Department of Justice."
So what is the ENI article under Bloomberg News's "Top Headlines" this morning? It's one featuring the ENI chief executive gushing about "clean energy" research at MIT:
"If only 10 percent of what I've seen here materializes, this research will change the world," said Paolo Scaroni, chief executive officer of Eni SpA, the Rome-based energy company, after a May 4 tour of the university's laboratories, which include a new center conceived to reduce the costs of solar power....Scaroni pledged $50 million to the energy initiative...Eni, which is funding the solar research labs, is one of 50 companies that have contributed money to MIT's alternative energy drive. Two other founding members, Masdar, Abu Dhabi's renewable energy company, and London-based BP PLC, each pledged at least $30 million over five years. Donors get early access to MIT energy-related research and opportunities to work with faculty.
Let's hope the research changes the world, because a world in which leading financial news services quote corporate leaders pontificating about "clean" energy without mentioning that days earlier their company paid more than $100 million to settle charges it bribed Nigerian government officials with cash filled briefcases is a world that could certainly use some change. Never mind the complexities of giving BP "early access" to MIT energy-related research, which in a more traditional academic framework would be published in a peer-reviewed journal to encourage the broader advancement of science rather than being shared ahead of time with the company responsible for what President Obama calls the worst man-made environmental disaster in American history.
I'm not saying there's no room for corporate-sponsored academic research or that BP shouldn't be allowed to pay for any of it, but these are the sort of issues you might expect a news organization to take a reasonably skeptical or at least curious stance toward. The whole Bloomberg article, a profile of the MIT president, is worth a read as an example of the genre known in the business as a "source-greaser."